Out of the park Featured

8:00pm EDT June 25, 2009

In 1987, Paul Franks became the second-generation owner of S.W. Franks Construction Co., which, at the time, was a heavy site construction firm.

But following his vision, he narrowed the company’s focus to high-performance sport construction because he considered it more interesting and challenging, and he saw it as an opportunity for niche work. The change in focus paid off, as his first high-performance professional field installation client was Jacobs Field — now known as Progressive Field — for the Cleveland Indians.

In 1998, the company was acquired by American Sports Products Group, but Franks continued to lead the business. The business stumbled, though, and in 2004, the conglomerate of sports and recreation enterprises filed for bankruptcy. But instead of letting the business that his family had founded fold, Franks rebranded his operation as Sports Construction Group LLC and continued his company’s legacy. Eventually, the president and CEO repurchased the S.W. Franks Construction Co. name and assets.

Today, some of the country’s top teams play on Franks’ fields, such as the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, one-quarter of National Football League teams, including the Pittsburgh Steelers, and one-fifth of Major League Baseball teams, including the New York Yankees.

While it may seem like a glorious job, it comes with its challenges. Field construction often has to be completed amid the work and schedules of other contractors. The surface and sub-base have to be graded perfectly to maximize performance and safety, and often, projects are widely publicized due to the millions of dollars invested and the public’s interest in sports venues.

Despite the challenges it faces with the eight to 10 projects it may be juggling at any given time, Franks and his team have come out victorious, as revenue has tripled from 2004 to 2008. And none of it would be possible if Franks didn’t apply a team approach to the company’s culture and management philosophy. While team members are given individual assignments, he also encourages them to turn to others for support to ensure the job gets done.

And having this kind of leadership ensures that the team hits a home run every time.

How to reach: Sports Construction Group LLC, (216) 241-9900 or www.sportscongroup.com